© Mike Wildenstein, CJF
published in ANVIL Magazine, March, 1995
In 385 b.c.e., Vegitus stressed everyday maintenance of the hooves of horses and made clear that it is preferable to treat an ailment as soon as it appears. Hooves should be washed after a journey, with care taken to clean the sole. The hooves were to be coated with a product that promoted the growth of the horn. Before application of his recommended ointment, the soles were to be prepared with the iron ferramentum, to let the heat flow out. This purge of the hooves was said to have a refreshing and restoring effect. The result was stronger hooves.
The application of a hot iron to the soles of the hooves is still practiced in parts of the world as is the application of ointments to the hoof wall to promote growth.
The white line in this hoof was severely infected with fungus, resulting in white line degeneration and hoof wall separation. It has been debrided using a bone curet. The condition pictured above started as a hoof abscess.
It is generally thought that in Greco-Roman times horses were hot shod; therefore, the wearing down and deterioration of the hooves must have been a concern. Vegitus recommended these two ointments: (1) three heads of garlic, one bunch of rue, about 20 gm alum in flakes, 1 kg lard, one handful of fresh donkey dung - the ingredients to be mixed and boiled for application to the hooves while traveling; (2) 1.5 kg tar, 0.5 kg wormwood, nine heads of garlic, 0.5 kg lard, 0.75 liter old oil, one sextarius vinegar - the ingredients to be mixed and boiled.
Vegitus gave suggestions for strengthening the hooves: "The circumstances of standing in a very clean stable without manure or moisture, with stalls having oaken flooring, strengthens the hooves." The fragile hooves will be hardened by means of an ointment containing: two parts of ivy seed to one part alum.
Maintenance of the horse's hooves is as much a concern now as it was in the year 500. Today, we have a multitude of shoes, hoof ointments and feed supplements. As farriers, we need to be informed of the products and their effects. When advising a client, we should take into consideration the environment, the management, and the use of the horse. Hoof ointments and feed supplements can be very beneficial. As farriers, we need to be able to recognize a properly hydrated hoof. Too much moisture can lead to deformed hooves; too little moisture can lead to hooves that fracture or chip easily. The sole as the most permeable of the horn tissues is most affected by bacterial and fungal infections. Poor-quality hooves are more permeable than good-quality hooves. Hoof cracks, chipped areas, and horseshoe nail holes create environments conducive to fungal or bacterial growth. Studies done by Dr. Susan Kempson show that poor-quality horn becomes even more permeable with prolonged soaking, whereas normal horn did not become more permeable with prolonged soaking. Permeable horn also creates an environment conducive to microorganisms and fungi. Greasy hoof dressings seal in these fungi and microorganisms and create the anaerobic (lacking oxygen) environment needed for their proliferation. Microorganisms, fungi, and yeast are found on healthy hooves and, being opportunists, they take advantage of defects that provide the proper environment for proliferation. We need to be able to recognize the damage created by Fusobacterium necrophorum in the frog and more importantly, deep in the central sulcus where it causes devastating effects on the integrity of the hoof. Learn to recognize the thin sole with a crater-like surface created by Staphylococcus and Spirochaeta microorganisms that are behind canker. The most talked-about demons of the hoof are pseudoallescheria boydii and scopulariopsis, creating onychomycosis, the dreaded white line disease.
Inform your clients about feed supplements like Farrier's Formula to aid in the growth of good quality hooves. Discuss the benefits of routine hoof soakings and products like CleanTrax to eliminate the fungal infections that damage hooves. Take a role in the total management of your clients' horses' hooves - it will only make the job of shoeing easier for you.
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